VinVox RadioAnnelise Richardson
“Returning to the Roots of Radio” with Charles Vincent, VinVox Radio
Independent artisan in Rome gives new life to upcycled vintage radios
Charles welcomes us with a friendly, slightly hesitant greeting as we climb the last flight of stairs in the shoebox stairwell leading up to his fourth floor apartment near Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. There’s music coming through the open door, and the lights are dimmed to a soft orange that is punctuated with the neon glows of a dozen vintage radios. The living room itself looks more like a workshop, with every available surface scattered with bolts, bulbs, screws, and a variety of other tools that, to the inexperienced eye, have inconspicuous purposes.
We’ve stepped inside the eccentric, organized, inventive mind of Charles Vincent – better known under his artist’s alias, VinVox Radio.
The lighting is adjusted, drinks are poured. We settle into our respective seats to begin the interview. Charles has an evident passion for electronics. He shows me different models and points out aspects of the technological inner workings of the vintage machines, speaking neither English nor Italian but a language I do not understand – electronics. I can see the excitement of a child in his eyes and he explains how they work.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve loved taking electronics apart. I would go around the streets around my house and find VCRs, and I would take them home and try to figure out how they worked.”
VinVox is like an antique store that has been brought to life at the hands of a zealous scientist. Forgotten relics of a previous era are illuminated from the inside out by LED lights that accompany a bluetooth speaker – rendering the vintage radios fully functional in their original forms.
“Bluetooth… connected.” a robotic voice reports. It’s almost shocking to hear such a modern thing come from the teal green Zenith, yet soon the radio comes to life with an Arcade Fire song downloaded on Charles’ smartphone. He demonstrates the volume buttons, and increases the sound by turning the original knob of the radio. Behind it, green light radiates from inside the radio, and the steady hum of music fills the room.
As a philosophy student at college in the United States, he discovered his passion for piano and choir performance. However, it was not in a lecture hall that the idea behind VinVox was born, but in a small antique shop managed by his mother in rural Mississippi after he unearthed a vintage radio in perfect physical condition. He opened up the device, stuck in a new radio, re-sealed it, and then a lightbulb went off and VinVox was born.
“For me, it’s kind of returning to my roots – I come from a family of craftsmen: my father was a painter, but at the same time he was a construction worker, carpenter, plumber…” Charles explained. “My mother designs clothing, does small handcrafts, and she’s also a musician. When I think about it, I come from this amazing artist family and I’m bringing it full circle.”
“Some people might not see it as art, because they’re electronic projects, but at the same time there’s ways that you can add more value to make them real pieces of art.”
There’s so much that can be learned from music. Take the time to fully immerse yourself into the act of listening to music – engage all your senses. Music has never been easy – it isn’t something you’re meant to have at your fingertips, at least not in its original form. Take the time to enjoy life’s small pleasures, when the windows are open, dinner is in the oven and fresh coffee is bubbling on the stovetop. Sunday mornings with fresh coffee on the stovetop, family members are scattered around the kitchen, a cool breeze drifts in from an open window while soft jazz plays through the antique radio standing proudly as a centerpiece on the table. VinVox is a return to our roots, to a time without the pressure of technology forcing life to move faster and faster. You turn the radio dial, and softly, music begins to play… this is the new voice of vintage.